A village in Gujarat India has reportedly banned unmarried women and minor girls from owning cell phones with the threat of fines for those caught in the act. Unmarried women found in violation of this ban by using a phone for anything other than talking to their relatives, must pay a fine of 2,100 rupee (around $31). Whoever tells on them gets a reward of 200 rupee (or $2.92).
However, girls are allowed to use cell phones at home with the supervision of their parents and women attending college are completely exempt from the ban.
Suraj village in Gujarat, is 100 km from the state’s financial capital of Ahmedabad and the native district of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.The average daily wage in India is Rs 193 (£2), although 250 million people live below the poverty line earning just Rs 86 (90p) per day.
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Explaining why he barred unmarried women from using cell phones last week, Devshi Vankar, the elected head of the Gujarat village of Suraj, told the Hindustan Times;
“Why do girls need cell phone? Internet is a waste of time and money for a middle-class community like us. Girls should better utilise their time for study and other works.
“College girls are mature enough to differentiate between good and bad. Further, they also need mobile phone to stay connected with their parents as colleges are located in nearby cities not in our village,” Vankar said.
Vankar said banning young girls from using mobile phones would protect them from being distracted in class and being harassed by men on messaging apps.
“Everyone knows what happens in today’s world due to mobile phones. This is Kalyug. This is an era of Whatsapp, where people secretly talk with each other. We have to save girls from those who acquire their number and harass them or try to lure these innocent girls,” he said.
Meanwhile, the entire villagers in Suraj with a population of 2,500, comprising various castes reportedly agreed with the decision, as cell phones were viewed as tools used by young people to leave their homes and elope and technology as becoming a ‘nuisance to society’.
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Another village council in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh also announced a ban on the use of mobile phones and social media by girls below the age of 18. Also, politically influential Thakor community initiated a drive to extend the restriction, with support of other OBC communities such as the Rabari and Vankar.
The motivation of the mobile phone ban for women can be traced to an alcohol de-addiction drive by the Thakors mainly aimed at men. As the drive progressed, the community came out with rules and regulations for women’s lifestyle. Community leaders felt just like liquor, the use of cell phones by unmarried women created a nuisance in society.
In January, Ludar in Banaskantha district was the first village to implement such a ban. The community vowed to intensify the drive against alcohol de-addiction as well as cell phones by passing resolutions during meetings being organised in rural parts of the state’s northern belt.’
“Alcohol consumption by men and cell phone use by women create a lot of disturbance in society. Young girls get misguided. It can break families and ruin relationship,” said Raikarnji Thakor, a community leader from north Gujarat.
In India, there are around a billion mobile phone subscribers but there is equally a wide gender gap in terms of who owns the phones. According to a 2015 study, there were around 113 million fewer women than men owning a mobile phone in the country.
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